2013 Portugal Surf Trip Recap

A while back I was invited to a Psywerx surf trip to Portugal. At first I had some doubts about the whole surfing thing (I do like surfing the internet, but I wasn’t so sure about surfing the waves), but after thinking some more about the worst case, I decided to go.

Sunset in Peniche, Portugal.

It turns out that the worst case is not all that bad. If for some reason, I don’t like surfing or I’m too out of shape to surf, I can always just chill on the beach with a cocktail sangria on my side and write code.

I imagine more people would end up working in the computer science field if more algorithms had a worst case like this one :-)

Preparation for the trip

From a third party perspective, surfing doesn’t look like a hard sport, but it does require a good amount of endurance, strength and flexibility.

Endurance and upper body muscles are needed for paddling, triceps, chest and back muscles are very important for getting up on the board and core muscles and lower body / hip flexibility are very important for keeping a balance once you manage to stand up.

The whole trip was organized in the last minute so I had less than 7 days to prepare.

I was slightly worried that this wasn’t enough. A while back after I have moved back to Ljubljana to work on my startup I dropped some good habits such as regular training with weights and spent most of my time writing code and doing other startup work. All of this contributed to a very poor flexibility and not being in the best shape endurance and strength wise.

It’s basically impossible to gain any substantial muscle mass or strength in such a short amount of time, so I decided to focus my effort on improving flexibility and getting better at moves which are used while surfing.

For flexibility I focused mostly on exercises for stretching my hip flexors and quads. Exercises involved assisted body weight squats with long pause in the bottom position, frog sits, calf stretches and psoas quad stretch.

For getting better at moves involved in surfing I followed a simple routine described in this video (sorry, the video is in Slovenian, but I’m pretty sure you can find similar videos in English).

The trip

The trip took place in the first week of November. Our group stayed in a surf house in a small village ~70km north of Lisbon and close to the city of Lourinhã and Areia Branca beach.

The whole housing arrangement also included surfboard and wetsuit rental, surfing lessons and daily trips to the beach.

Surf house. Photo by Nataša.

Daily routine included getting up, eating some food and usually around 10:00 leaving for the beach and staying there for anywhere between 3-6 hours.

Wax on, wax off. Photo by Nataša.

Surf spots which we visited include:

My favorite spot was Molhe Leste which we visited in the last part of our trip. Compared to Baleal and Peniche Cima the waves here were a lot more powerful and I had less problems getting up on the board. The only downside was that the water was very shallow so you needed to be careful to not hurt yourself when you fell of the board.

Waves and whitewater at Peniche Cima beach
Waves and whitewater at Molhe Leste beach

Since I am a beginner, I only surfed on whitewater (no real waves for me), but other people in our group who had more experience or were doing better also rode some real waves.

After we got back home from the beach I spent a lot of my time on my computer, but sadly the internet issues (more on that bellow) negatively impacted my productivity and work which required a working internet connection.

Other activities included playing board games, watching movies and playing foosball.

Playing monopoly.
Coding with a live music next to a fire place = awesomesauce.

The internet or the lack thereof

The only thing during a whole trip which left a slightly bitter taste in my mouth was the internet or the lack thereof.

The surf house supposed to have an internet connection, but it turned out that the packet loss was very high and connection was very slow and pretty much unusable.

There main reason for that was that the internet was provided by a 3G/4G dongle and it looked like that during the second day, monthly data cap was reached. As a consequence, the whole connection was throttled to very low, pretty much unusable speeds.

It also didn’t help that our group consisted of 8 geeks, each of which had at least 3 different internet connected devices (laptop + mobile phone + tablet).

To compensate for the lack of the internet at the house, I left out some surf trips and spent a good amount of time hacking away at some nice beach bars and restaurants which had a decent internet connection.

Another way to compensate for it was being more social (yeah, I know, this is unusual for a geek :P), playing board games and watching movies. In fact, during this trip, I watched more movies total than I did in the whole 2012.

Coding and surfing the vastness of the world wide web in a bar at the Areia Branca beach
Coding in a nice bar at the Molhe Leste beach.
I don't often watch movies, but when I do, I watch V for Vendetta on 5th of November.

Lisbon, Portugal

On our last day, when we were traveling back home, we decided to make a short stop in Lisbon. We didn’t have a lot of time to properly explore the city, but I liked what I saw during this short stay.

Eduardo VII Park in Lisbon.
Downtown Lisbon.

A thing which I found interesting is that Lisbon is in many ways, very similar to San Francisco (minus all the dirty and smelly streets and homeless people). Both cities have a lot in common:

  • Both cities are located near the ocean
  • Both cities were built on top of 7 steep hills
  • Lisbon has historical trams which look similar to historical cable cars in San Francisco
  • Lisbon has 25 de Abril Bridge which looks like a smaller version of Golden Gate bridge (the bridge was built by the same company that built Bay bridge)
  • Both cities have a similar weather in the winter.


Group photo taken at the Molhe Leste beach.

I ended up learning some basic surf moves and all in all, the whole trip was a lot of fun. Because of the internet problems I did produce less code than usual, but other awesomeness more than made up for it.

I definitely plan to attend other surf trips in the future and I will make sure to be in a better shape for a next trip :-)